aussieBum is the iconic mens swimwear company born on the sands of Bondi Beach. Back in 2000, unable to find the nylon togs he loved amidst a sea of lycra, Sean created his own and set about knocking on doors. Today, aussieBum’s swimwear, underwear and lifestyle apparel has a cult following and sells in 183 countries worldwide. In this chat, Sean recounts his incredible journey from beach bum to international megabrand. He shares the ways in which he stays close to his customers, why he refused to take no for an answer and how he came up with one of his biggest selling products – the male version of the wonderbra.
“We’re literally selling little mini movie trailers and once the endorphins kick in, that’s when the sale kicks in”Sean Ashby
Make what you love
“Every year, I used to go to Gowings to buy my swimwear, and my swimwear was a unique style of swimwear. It was a tree coat nylon, which surf lifesavers and surf rowers used to wear. And I went to Gowings and they said, oh, we no longer sell this product. But here’s an alternative here is some lycra swimwear. If ever a male has worn Lycra swimwear they will see they all of a sudden become the Ken doll from Barbie where you cannot quite tell if it’s a male or a female and a little bit too flat for the masculinity of the man of that day.
So sitting on the beach, back in 2000, and watching the volleyball being created on Bondi Beach for the Olympics, without a job, with very little money. I’d saved 20,000 for my home loan when I was employed, and that was dwindling fast. And looking down at my Lycra swimwear, feeling not like a man, I thought, how hard could it be for me to create what it is that I love the most? I’m sure many other Australians would love it as well.
So that’s how I went about finding the fabric and finding a pattern maker to be able to design the perfect Aussie cossie, which eventually became aussieBum.”
The Kylie Effect
“I’m sitting at my computer, processing orders, and I often listen to music on YouTube. And all of a sudden, a Kylie Minogue video is out and it’s called Slow. And I’m sitting there and the first opening scene was this guy diving off this diving board, who was in Madrid or Barcelona or somewhere. And as he landed into the water, he came up and it was like, that’s my swimwear, that’s my swimwear!
And then it cuts to Kylie tight and then the camera pans out and there’s literally 20 odd guys all around her. Every one of them was wearing my swimwear. And it was a moment I’ll never forget. I ended up not saying anything, but just listening to an amazing song, but just being so proud to see my swimwear being worn by these Greek adonises, these people that were just beyond.
And literally within eight hours, I would comfortably say by the end of the day, all of a sudden people wanted to know me.”
Evolution of a community
“Could you imagine what it’s like walking the streets feeling alone and aussieBum was a calling card in the early days. They were the most stolen items in change rooms because some guys, they couldn’t buy them. So they stole them.
You’ve got to think of it like evolution. Today, you’ve got so many guys, mainstream guys that wear it because they look good, they feel good. And who gives a fuck which way you bat, you know? Who cares? You know, you’ve got a style that people can relate to.
But you go ten years earlier and you could not wear a pink top, so to speak, with a triangle, you would be harassed. And so instead of that, a lot of people that fell in love with aussieBum in the early days, they were the Kylie tribe. They were the ones that were loud and proud. And so then when they saw another guy wearing aussieBum they went, uh-huh, uh-huh. And it gave them some currency to go, look what I’m wearing, and then conversation struck up.”
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